Immediately after the ice melted down on Kola Peninsula, the first salmon are caught in our records. Already at the beginning of May or in the middle of the month salmon can be caught depending on the rate of melting of the ice on all the rivers of the White Sea basin. Sometimes the weather allows you to fish from ice-covered banks, and local anglers sometimes practice salmon fishing from under the ice. At the same time, the fish with the same success attacks the fly not far from the estuary of the rivers and also in the upper parts of the river. This suggests that salmon had a lot of time to spread along the entire length of the rivers. These salmon, as a rule, are not found in the rivers of the Barents and North Sea basins. This is the cause of confusion and misunderstanding on the part of European fishermen who are not familiar with the peculiarities of the movement of the White Sea salmon. Here there are 2 groups of salmon - autumn and spring-summer. At the very beginning of the season on the Varzuga and other rivers like Chavanga, Strelna and Ponoi flowing into the White Sea we catch salmon, which have already spent the winter in the river and are preparing for spawning next autumn. By their condition and color, you can judge the time spent in the river.
At the same time, locally called “Zaledka” (means under ice) appears near estuary of the river. These autumn group salmon remain the winter in the estuaries of the river and in the sea. When ice goes away they begin to climb up the river, but their numbers are small (about 2% of the total herd). That is, by the beginning of fishing season, the majority of the salmon is already in the river. In terms of appearance, “Zaledka” is often no different from salmon that appeared in the river in the last autumn or winter months.
Then, with a change in the level and warming of the water, “Zaledka” is mixed with overwintered fish, which leave the wintering pools and spread throughout all parts of the river. It is this group of salmon that overwintered in the river that makes up the absolute majority of our catches at the beginning of the season, and the effectiveness of fishing often depends on the concentration of fish in the wintering pools. The colder the water, the longer the salmon will stay in deep and calm pools. And if there comes an early and warm spring, such pools will become empty quickly, catching salmon becomes more difficult. Therefore, the period with long and cold weather is appreciated, allowing to successfully catch salmon near the wintering pools all along the river until mid-June. Salmon maintains its condition, activity, and is not in a hurry to take a run in numerous river shallows. On Umba, Kitsa, Chavanga and Chapom, on the Strelna and Pyalitsa rivers, Pulonga and further east to the Ponoi river, on all the rivers flowing into the White Sea, the situation with the movement of salmon also looks like on the Varzuga river. We will talk more about this autumn group of salmon when we consider fishing in the second part of the season, in August - October. In the meantime, back to the beginning of the season.
From the second week of June, more and more often we come across absolutely fresh fish relatively good in size. This is a new group of salmon - the springer or local called “Zakroika”. The Russian version comes from the word “close”, this group of fish seems to close, completes the spring movement of fish from the sea. These salmon spent one extra year in the sea, are distinguished by large weight and are ready to spawn in the coming autumn. Majority are females. Unfortunately, the total number of such fish is small (no more than 5% against the total significant number of fish in the river). This is the second peculiarity and difference of the salmon populations of the White and Barents Seas (Northern coast of Kola Peninsula). In the north of the Kola Peninsula in June, the Springer will make up the majority of your catch.
On Varzuga, the Springer runs into the river from the White Sea in small groups until the end of July. Planning fishing for these salmon is quite difficult. The speed of their movement upriver is unclear and the final goal is unclear. From mid-June you can catch them anywhere on the river. Here the most important is the experience and ability of the angler to read the river. Although it should be noted that the fresh springer is characterized by aggressiveness, while there is a further drop in activity in autumn salmon and "Zaledka".
At the same time, summer salmon or so called grills enter the river from the sea. As a rule, these are below average size males. If you caught a female, this is a reason to doubt the belonging of this fish to the summer herd. The maximum number of them in the river falls on the first half of July, and entry into the river continues in the first weeks of August. Usually at this time licensed fishing on the Varzuga river is closed, but fishing continues on other rivers of the White Sea. Despite the small weight of 2-2.5 kg, this fish is energetic and interesting for fly fishing. It quickly spreads along the entire length of the river, choosing areas with fast-flowing water. Grils averages 18% in the total annual run of salmon, but due to its activity it can make up in July the most of the fishermen’s catch.
Now we come to the largest group of salmon, this is the “Osenka”. It begins to enter the rivers from the sea from mid-August and continues to go until mid-December. These salmon do not participate in spawning, but settle in the river, waiting for the autumn of the next year. About 70% of the herd are females. In the greatest quantity the fish enters the river from the second week of October, and it actively goes in November. Unfortunately, we cannot use the late autumn weeks for fishing, but at the end of September and beginning of October the run of fish can be extremely intense.
The timing and intensity of movement of autumn salmon depend on the state of the rivers, on the level and temperature of the water. There are many factors that we try to take into account when predicting fishing. But, as a rule, the high water level in August-September contributes to the early appearance of a significant number of fish in the river. And vice versa - low water and excessively cold weather in October prevent salmon from entering the sea.
The physical condition of the autumn fish is superb. These heavy and well-fed fish are of greatest interest to anglers. Fresh fish have a characteristic silver color, many of them carry sea lices on themselves, as evidence of their very recent stay in the sea. The fish that first entered the river gradually acquire purple hues on the back. The warmer the weather was and the longer the fish stayed in the river, the more intense the purple stripe on the back of the fish would be. Thus, according to the color of salmon, we can assume the time of its appearance in the river.
Under favorable conditions (a sufficient level of water and a comfortable temperature of 6–9 degrees), autumn salmon quickly move up the river, filling all pools suitable for wintering. Therefore, it can be found on all rapids and shallows, especially on the lower stretches of rivers. How far the salmon goes will depend on the state of the water. With early frosts, most of the incoming fish remain at the lowest pools. When warming the water, the fish can once again move upstream, and at the next cooling, again slow down. But as a rule, the concentration of salmon in the upper reaches of the river is not yet high.
Therefore, in autumn, the lower parts of the rivers are considered the most promising, the first pools upstream from estuary. When frosts occur, our interest falls to the wintering pools with deep and calm water, where the largest amount of fish is concentrated and retain some activity.
In general, autumn fishing is difficult to predict. Therefore, it is important to monitor the state of the river, temperature and water level in order to try to find the best sections of the river for fishing. It is important to be able to move along the river and change fishing places. It makes no sense to stand on the shallows, where there is currently no fish running or to look for salmon on empty pools. Initially, you can give preference to areas close to the sea, and in the future to adjust fishing tactics based on the results and condition of the river.
Thus, the autumn herd of salmon is the main herd on the rivers of the White Sea basin. It determines the total number of salmon in the river throughout the season. Our catches at the beginning of the fishing season in May and June depend on the condition of the river in the fall and winter.
In forecasting the timing of fishing and results, natural annual fluctuations in salmon abundance should also be taken into account. It is possible that the opinion of 8–9 summer cycles of alternating the maximum and minimum number of fish in the Varzuga herd is justified. With a high probability, this also applies to other rivers of the Kola Peninsula, which flow into the White Sea. There is information about individual annual fluctuations in the number of fish of all 6 generations of salmon in this basin. The mutual overlap of these generations gives a rather complicated picture for predictions. We can only say that the decline in the number of salmon in a river is always replaced by its growth. And this difference can be significant, for example, in 1982, 24,800 specimens were recorded in the river, and in 1987 - 137,000. And this happens without any noticeable change in human influence on the ecosystem of a given area. That is why attempts to directly link the dynamics of changes in the salmon population on the rivers of the Kola Peninsula with the increase in the number of amateur anglers or the deterioration / improvement of river protection are premature.
In conclusion, I want to say that planning a trip and choosing the best week has always been and will not be easy. In many cases, it's just a lottery. The river will always be different. The week of the upcoming season will never repeat the week of the past. There will be a different level of water, a different rate of change in temperature and transparency, another sea and the phase of the moon. Planning a trip, we can not take into account all these factors. We do not know how the river will meet us. But we must be able to adapt and find the best solution for the conditions set for us. Attempting to understand how the salmon moves, how it lives in the river, gives us a chance for effective results.